REMINISCENCES, part 6:
I MANAGED TO REMAIN CHEERFUL
At that time, in addition to continuing my silence, I also gave up writing (January, 1927). Shortly thereafter I started to communicate by spelling out words on an English alphabet board, which I discarded recently (October, 1954).
The school known as Meher Ashram was started as a small day school for the boys of the adjoining village of Arangaon. After some time it was turned into a regular boarding school (May, 1927) that housed more than a hundred boys. Efforts were made to collect them from various cities and different countries. One of the mandali was sent to England for that purpose. None came from the West, but a number of boys from Iran did join the Meher Ashram.
My first aim was to arrange for teaching the boys English through their various vernaculars, by standards set up in the University of Bombay. Having accomplished this, I began to spend all of my time, day and night, on the general welfare and spiritual upliftment of the boys. Even though I had entrusted several mandali with the job of keeping watch over the boys round the clock, still I would frequently appear in the dormitory in the dead of night to see if they were well wrapped and sleeping all right.
This was also the period when I carried out one of my longest continuous fasts, which lasted five and one-half months (November, 1927-April, 1928). Once during this period I took nothing but a few sips of water for more than twenty-eight days. The remainder of the time I lived on cocoa in milk taken once in twenty-four hours.
Even this was in scant supply as it happened. Lahu (Baba's favorite among the untouchable boys) used to carry my supply to me every day, and on the way he would drink half of it and then pass on the other half to me. I found out about this at the end of my seclusion when the women mandali assured me that they had sent Lahu regularly, as I had originally instructed them, with the thermos bottle full of cocoa. When I questioned Lahu about his, he readily confessed pilfering half my cocoa every day. I pardoned the little fellow as readily as he had acknowledged the guilt.
During part of this period I remained continuously indoors for more than three months (November, 1927-February,1928) at the spot where my future tomb is located. I did not step out of the crypt (the underground part of Baba's future tomb) and the temporary small structure placed over it. The temporary hut has now been replaced by the present domed building.
In the daytime I spent most of the time in the upper room, which had two windows level with the floor, and at night I would retire into the crypt. One of the two windows in the upper room faced the Meher Ashram on the east and was in line with a raised platform before the ashram. The boys and the mandali would sit on this, near me but outside my room, and I would give them discourses and carry on discussions with them with the help of my alphabet board.
Through the west window I could see the sadhak-ashram (hermitage), which consisted of a string of small rooms standing at that time near my place of seclusion. Some of the mandali were also in seclusion in these small rooms, fasting under my directions on a small quantity of milk taken once or twice a day....
At a later stage (March, 1928) Meher Ashram was divided into two sections. The new portion was called "Prem Ashram" (Shelter of Love). In it were housed the boys most awakened to love. They were given some freedom from the daily school routine to allow for their preoccupation with meditation and the spiritual experiences that most of them periodically had.
One of the boys from Iran, of about eighteen years, lost consciousness of his body and surroundings for four days. Had an enema not been given to him then at my orders he would have died. Thereupon the boy regained ordinary normal consciousness, but not the consciousness which is regained after union with God, as that is an entirely different and unique achievement. For a long time afterwards he would weep and complain bitterly about my having dragged him down from the blissful state in which he said he had seen nothing but Baba.
When some of my (internal) work had to be done afresh (June, 1928), both the ashrams were shifted root and branch to Toka (about forty-five miles north of Ahmednagar). There the area of my seclusion included the whole of the Prem Ashram. It was a picturesque spot at the junction of the rivers Godavri and Paravra. Swimming was added to the daily recreation of the boys.
Here again I fasted on a few sips of water and milkless tea for a number of days (forty-two days, September-October, 1928). The boys were overjoyed when I ended my fasting by drinking some orange juice. As it happened to be the birthday of Krishna, they insisted on carrying me in a palanquin around the new colony of "Meherabad", dressed as Krishna.
Singing and dancing, they tossed my palanquin back and forth. Due to the fast I had just ended this jerky ride was excruciatingly painful for my abdomen. Out of my love for the boys and their love for me I managed to remain cheerful at the time, but I suffered the physical consequences for two months afterwards.
LISTEN, HUMANITY, Appendix II, pp. 254-257, ed. D. E. Stevens
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